Interview with Thomas D. Clark, March 18, 1986

Project: University of Kentucky Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

In this interview, Thomas Clark discusses the Lyman T. Johnson case. Johnson was seeking a Ph.D. in history and applied to the University of Kentucky for admission. When he was denied admission, he brought a court case against the school. Clark gave testimony in the case, and he recalls his experience in court. Clark states that he had not had access to Lyman Johnson's file or transcript at the time, so he did not know if Johnson was qualified to attend the program. Clark provides his impressions of Thurgood Marshall and states that he believes that there could not have been a better lawyer for the case. Clark describes the judge's decision to allow black students to attend special courses at UK, and Johnson's short time at the University of Kentucky. He also discusses a separate UK law school program that educated African Americans in Frankfort, and threatened the law school's accreditation.

Clark believes both members of the faculty and the community saw race relations being pushed forward. Clark describes growing up in Mississippi where African Americans were the majority. He states that he knew discrimination was wrong but was very aware of it as a Southern historian. Clark recalls being asked to give a statement to the New York Times upon the decision of Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka. He states that he was working on his book "The Emerging South" at the time. He remembers a memo from UK President Herman L. Donovan asking professors to seat black students separately from white students.

Clark states that he feels that the University of Kentucky did the right thing with the Johnson case. He explains that if the university had admitted Johnson right away they would have left themselves open for prosecution in violation of the Day Law, Kentucky's segregation law. He also feels that if the university had not gone through the trial, it would not have been as quickly accepted throughout the state. Clark talks about the atmosphere on campus after integration.

Interview Accession

1986oh108_af291

Interviewee Name

Thomas D. Clark

Interviewer Name

Terry L. Birdwhistell

Interview Date

1986-03-18

Interview Rights

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Interview Usage

Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Clark, Thomas D. Interview by Terry L. Birdwhistell. 18 Mar. 1986. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Clark, T.D. (1986, March 18). Interview by T. L. Birdwhistell. University of Kentucky Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Clark, Thomas D., interview by Terry L. Birdwhistell. March 18, 1986, University of Kentucky Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt766t0gx40q